Living with cancer blog

New cancer treatments create cost challenges

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. July 7, 2012

New cancer treatment methods using oral chemotherapy drugs — sometimes called biological therapy or targeted therapy — are changing the way people with some cancers are being treated.

This new way of treating cancers can be effective and convenient as the drugs are in pill form, can be prescribed by your treatment team and then taken at home instead of having to travel to a cancer treatment center for a chemotherapy infusion.

However, this trend brings a new challenge, covering the costs of the drugs. Most health insurance plans cover oral medications through a pharmacy benefit which can mean that only part of the cost is covered (a percentage or co-pay).

The new drugs are expensive and can cost thousands of dollars a year for treatment. As health plans try to catch up with the new changes, some people are still left paying for the high cost of treatment.

Patient advocates organized through the International Myeloma Foundation got involved early on and formed the Patients Equal Access Coalition (PEAC) which encouraged states to pass oral oncology parity laws, which give patients more affordable access to this treatment option, which may be the best treatment option available.

However, if you're still struggling to cover the costs of this type of treatment, you may want to look for support from patient assistance organizations such as the Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation.

Through this blog, I want to introduce you to Emily Acland from the PAN Foundation. PAN has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in financial assistance to more than 132,000 qualifying patients with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

PAN provides financial assistance to patients who, although they have insurance, still can't cover the out-of-pocket medical costs of the breakthrough medical treatments they need.

Emily says, "To those helped, it seems almost too good to be true." PAN accommodates all insurance plans, including Medicare. Patients can receive as much as a year's worth of funding (anywhere from $1,500-10,000 depending on their diagnosis) to cover the costs of their medications and treatments, often with the option to renew that support when patients have exhausted their initial grant.

PAN's application and claims processes are seamless — with no complicated paperwork to fill out and no waiting to be reimbursed. PAN has established direct relationships with doctors and more than 30 specialty pharmacies that speed approvals, payments and dispensing for both providers and patients.

Don't compromise with your health care because of cost. Available funds, applicant qualifications, and an online application can be found on PAN's website at

If you're uninsured and looking for additional assistance with covering the costs of cancer medications, look at Needy Meds for additional resources at Feel free to share comments regarding this topic on the blog.


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

July 07, 2012